There are seemingly laws for everything nowadays. Would you believe there are laws for lunch? Indeed, California has laws to make sure workers receive an adequate lunch break, as described below.
California employers do not have to pay employees for their meal breaks. However, Labor Code Section 512 promulgates certain obligations an employer must comply with as it pertains to lunch break for their workers.
All employees that work more than five consecutive hours must be afforded a thirty-minute lunch break that is wholly work-free. Even more stringently, if a worker is on the job for more than six straight hours, he or she is not permitted to waive this requirement.
For workers with more hours, when an employee works more than ten hours in a day, he or she must be given a second meal break of not less than thirty minutes. If an employer neglects to provide these mandatory breaks to its workers, it may be required to make additional payments to the employee at the regular rate of pay or greater, if the circumstances so require.
In those situations where a worker is required to remain on duty during what is supposed to be a meal break, an employer will generally be required to pay for the worker’s meals. For example, a front desk security guard who is required to monitor people who go into and out of the building, custodians, and janitors, and the like must be accommodated in this way. In many cases, even if the employer provides lunch, the worker may be entitled to be paid for such “working lunches.”
There are many California attorneys well-versed in the laws—and how to enforce them—when it comes to an Unpaid Lunch Break. If you believe your employer is not in compliance, consult such a lawyer (the consultation is often free) and see if you have a viable claim. The laws are on your side.
Although you may be wary of an employer getting upset over your claims, if he or she fires you for asserting your legally-mandated rights, you are then able to bring a wrongful termination lawsuit where, if it is proven that the motivation for the firing violated public policy (such as protecting the rights of a worker), the lawsuit is likely to yield a positive outcome in terms of a significant award for the wrongfully-terminated employee.
So if you believe you are the victim of lunch break violations or other rights you may have as a worker, do not hesitate to contact a Labor Law attorney at your earliest convenience. Keep in mind that there are often strict time deadlines that, if not followed, will prevent you from ever being able to assert your rights or recover for any violations, no matter how clear. For this reason, do not hesitate.